Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Concert review: Alabama Shakes gives electrifying, unlikely show at sold-out Palladium Ballroom
In her long dress and electric guitar, she looked like a latter-day Sister Rosetta Tharpe: part gospel singer, part punk rocker, and 100 percent original.
DALLAS “Three years ago, we couldn’t even get a gig in our hometown,” Brittany Howard said Wednesday night. “And now look.”
Howard was beaming at the capacity crowd of 3,000 who packed the Palladium Ballroom to see Alabama Shakes -- and rightfully so. The 24-year-old singer is one of pop music’s most unlikely success stories, an African-American former mail carrier from Athens, Ala. who found fame by shattering the indie-rock mold.
The soulful, ‘60s-influenced Shakes lost the best new artist Grammy last month to Fun., but it hasn’t dampened their exuberance. Howard put on an electrifying performance, strutting, finger-pointing, and headbanging her way across stage while squeezing her mic like she was killing a venomous snake. In her long dress and electric guitar, she looked like a latter-day Sister Rosetta Tharpe: part gospel singer, part punk rocker, and 100 percent original.
Alabama Shakes built its songs around Howard’s spastic-elastic voice as she moaned, growled, and howled up a maelstrom. But the show’s high points arrived when she tried a little tenderness, whispering in a falsetto in “Heartbreaker” and cooing through “Boys & Girls,” her touching lament about gender politics in the sandbox set and the title track of the band’s debut CD.
The quintet covered a broad swath of R&B history in 75 minutes. Organ-drenched Memphis ballads segued into Motowny rockers and then into “Make Me Itch,” a brand new raveup in the flavor of Chuck Berry. But what made Alabama Shakes more than a soul revival act was its garage rock grit. As Howard bashed away on her turquoise Gibson SG electric guitar, the songs took on an element of danger and suspense.
Howard sounded surprised just to be onstage, and she mentioned several times that she’d never been to Dallas before Tuesday.
“The only part of Dallas I’ve seen is these four walls,” she said, surveying the sea of cheering fans. “But that’s all I need.”
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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